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In a tournament punctuated by giant killing, all-time World Cup trophy leaders Brazil have put aside some of the doubts from their previous performances after defeating Serbia 2-0.
There were nervy moments and Serbia should probably have more to show from what was a stellar World Cup campaign, however in the end it was to no avail as the pre-tournament favourites Brazil qualified first in their group and look set to go deeper into the tournament.
Until their surprise defeat, Brazil looked all set to take on their vanquishers of 2014 but Germany’s 2-0 defeat to South Korea saw them bundled out for the first time in their history. Brazil will now take on Mexico, who finished second in their group after their 3-0 demolition by Sweden.
Brazil’s nerves were settled late in the second half after Paulinho’s toe-poke over keeper Vladimir Stojkovic put them in the lead.
After some sustained periods of Serbian pressure, Brazil’s second came through Thiago Silva in the 68th minute, effectively consigning the Serbs to a group stage exit alongside Costa Rica.
Overall however Brazil will be worried about some significant gaps in their performance, with some individual efforts required from Paulinho and Phil Coutinho to get them through the earlier matches in the group stages. That said, they are hardly the first big team – and former champion – to struggle in this World Cup.
Germany were eliminated, while Argentina, Spain, Portugal and France have all struggled at times during the tournament.
Brazilian superstar Neymar was subdued in attack, but had occasional flashes of brilliance to show his quality.
The other team to make it out of the group stages – Switzerland – will take on Sweden in the Round of 16. Switzerland drew with Costa Rica 2-2, conceding an injury time penalty but ensuring that they qualify second in their group.